Psychotic Disorders and Addiction Linked

Severe mental illness linked to substance abuse compared to general population

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sometimes those with mental disorders can also experience other types of physical or mental illness. One such mental illness they may be at risk for is addiction.

A recent study found that substance abuse was much more likely among those with severe mental illness than in the general population.

Heavy drinking, heavy marijuana use, smoking cigarettes and recreational drug use were all more likely among those with psychotic disorders.

Psychotic disorders include mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder.

"Seek help for substance abuse."

This study, led by Sarah M. Hartz, MD, PhD, looked at substance abuse rates in those with severe psychotic illnesses compared to the general population.

The researchers compared 9,142 individuals with severe psychotic disorders — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder with psychotic aspects or schizoaffective disorder — with 10,195 individuals who had no mental illness.

The specific substance abuse behaviors the researchers looked for included smoking more than 100 cigarettes in a lifetime, drinking more than four alcoholic drinks a day, using marijuana more than 21 times per year or using any other recreational drugs.

The researchers found that those with psychotic illnesses had more than four times greater odds of smoking cigarettes than those without mental disorders in the general population.

Those with psychotic disorders also had four times greater odds of heavy drinking and 3.5 times greater odds of heavy marijuana use than those in the general population.

As with smoking, the odds of using recreational drugs among those with psychotic disorders was 4.6 times greater than among those in the general population.

The increased risk for smoking, drinking, marijuana and drug use among those with psychotic illnesses existed across all races/ethnicities and for both males and females.

The researchers also found that, despite declining smoking rates among those aged 30 or younger, such decreases in smoking cigarettes were not found among those with severe mental illness.

The researchers therefore concluded that those with severe mental disorders were at higher risk for substance abuse, including smoking cigarettes, heavy drinking or marijuana use or recreational drug use.

This study was published January 1 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

One of the study's authors owns the patent for identifying certain markers of addiction. No other authors had potential conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 31, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014